<< Revelation 21: The Descent of the New Jerusalem >>
2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. REVELATION XXI
We have now a most beautiful subject before us — the descent of the New Jerusalem. When tired of the turmoils of the present, when weary of the strife and contention of a time of care, conflict, and trouble, how delightful it is to look up and hear, from the blessed source of all progression, ” Behold, I make all things new.” — Rev. xxi. 5. All things — science, literature, arts, philosophies, commerce, trade, intercourse between countries and provinces, and above all, in religion — all things will be made new. In religion, say some, that is impossible! How can there be anything new in religion ? But why not ? Look around. Do yea see any religion so perfect that it cannot be improved ? Is everything so dear in doctrine that there is nothing to be explained? Do you understand the Word of God so plainly that a divine radiance covers every page ? Have you no doubts, no difficulties, whose obscurities you desire to have made clear ? Would not new motives to help men to be better be a blessing to mankind ? Has the Lord’s kingdom come yet ? Is His will done on earth as it is done in heaven yet ? Would not a more perfect knowledge of the Lord’s will, and how it is done in heaven, help us to do it better on earth, and thus prepare for heaven? Ponder over these questions, and, in the meantime, listen to the angel who said to the beloved John, ” Come hither, and I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” — Ver. 9. No one who reads the prophecies with even ordinary attention can imagine that the world is now what it is intended to become, or what All-seeing Wisdom has declared it will become. Not a quarter of the population of the earth are Christian even in name. Not a hundredth part of these are striving to become so in reality. Of those who are striving, how few see their way clear, and undoubtingly walk on in the path of purity, content, and peace. Surely this is not the fulfillment of what God has promised. There must be a grander future for mankind than this present tossed, troubled, and bewailing state. Let us hope, and let us listen.
” The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” says the prophet Isaiah, ” as the waters cover the sea.” — Chap. xi. 9. But of the believers of what is commonly called Christianity, who knows tho Lord ? who professes to know Him ? It is said His nature is mysterious, and beyond the possibility of knowing. The Father is incomprehensible, the Son is incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost is incomprehensible. If all the world could be persuaded to believe that, it would still not be covered with the knowledge of the Lord. There must be a clearer explanation of divine things vouchsafed to man, or this prophecy can never be fulfilled; and this has been undoubtedly promised. ” The time cometh when I will shew you plainly of the Father.” — John xv. 25.
The prophet says, again, ” Violence shall no more be heard in the land ; wasting nor destruction within thy borders : but thou shalt call thy walls SALVATION and thy gates PRAISE.” — Chap. lx. 18. Again, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks : nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” — Chap. ii. 4. But, when shall this be? It has never yet been.
And when we see the religions of the nations of Christendom each praying for the success of the arms of their governments against other nations equally Christian with themselves, and returning thanks that their enemies have been overcome and slaughtered, we can hardly think that this is the bright and holy revelation of the Divine Will, which will strike the sword from the oppressor’s hand, and teach the nations not to learn war any more.
Oh, no! this new golden age belongs to a more interior Christianity than earth has yet received. An inner city for the soul, which was imaged by that which John saw, a golden city and a crystal one, descending from the Lord out of heaven, a New Church, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. Some are startled when they hear of a New Church. Yet nothing can be plainer than that such a church was in due time to be given to men. Jerusalem, in the the Scriptures, signifies the Church: a New Jerusalem must therefore meam a New Church.
It is well known to the reader of the Scriptures that the Jerusalem of the Jews was the type of the Church. It was not for its own sake, nor for the sake of the Jews as a small peculiar nation, that such minute regulations were given about the sacrifices, and worship, and feasts of Jerusalem. Glorious things were spoken of her as the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High, but it was not for herself, but for that Church of which she was the shadow. Her name was given of the Divine Providence. The name Jebus (he who contemns), which she was formerly called, was changed to Jerusalem (the sight of peace), because in this, as in everything else, she was the emblem of the church which alone gives a sight of the Prince of Peace, of the principles of peace, and of that peaceful home of all the good hereafter. Hence, the Church is the true Jerusalem, the city of peace.
The prophetic declarations of the Old Testament can only be understood when they speak of Jerusalem as meaning the inward city of God, the Church. The coming of the Lord is always represented as a great blessing for Jerusalem, and yet it is certain that for the outward Jerusalem it was only the precursor of destruction. The Lord said of that Jerusalem, ” Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” When the prophet saw in spirit the Lord coming into and saving the world, he said, “Awake, awake ; put on thy strength, Zion ; put on thy beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the holy city ; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.” — Isa. lii. 1. Again, ” Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem : for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem.” — Ver. 9. The Lord redeemed His church, and made her a holy city, into which the unclean should not enter ; but the outward capital of the Jews was spiritually Sodom and Egypt (Rev. xi. 8). The apostle draws the distinction very plainly between the outward and the inward Jerusalem in the epistle to the Galatians, ” For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, and is the mother of us all.” — Chap. iv. 25, 26. The same Jerusalem, he speaks of, when he is describing the blessedness of those who become truly Christians, “Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and CHURCH of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” — Heb. Xii. 22, 23. Here it is clearly declared that the heavenly Jerusalem is the CHURCH.
There can he no doubt the apostle is speaking in the same style when be observes, ” For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God.” — Rom. ii. 28, 29. Outward Jerusalem, with its people, its rites, and shadows, no longer stood in the divine sight as His Church. An inward city was formed, a spiritual Jerusalem. This was the city of God, the true Jerusalem, the real Church. The Saviour from His cross proclaimed of the church of types, ” It is finished.” Another city was set on the hill (Matt v.) ; a city whose buildings and foundation were of God, an inward Jerusalem, whose citizens were all those who loved the Lord Jesus as their King, and obeyed His lairs here in His lower kingdom, that they may be prepared for the high glories of His upper kingdom in heaven. Jerusalem, then, we may clearly see, in the prophecies and the New Testament, means the Church, and that being admitted, the consequence must be that the New Jerusalem in the prophetic book of the Revelations must mean a New Church. The magnificent city beheld in spirit by John was a grand symbol of the future new and glorious Church which would bless the earth.
It would descend from God out of heaven. Many persons look for a continued progression of the human race, and a high state of civilization and excellence at some remote period to be attained, but brought about by science and reason unaided. But the divine record gives us a different and a far better assurance. It is to descend from God, the Father of His people, and the Author of all good, out of heaven. Human self-sufficiency would often desire to originate improvements and be its own Saviour, but man is only a receiver. He can only improve by receiving what God in mercy offers. They who receive the Gospel were elevated and saved by it, and they who receive the New Jerusalem may walk in its light and be happy, but it must never be forgotten it descends from God. It does not originate with man.
The idea of mere literalists that an actual city of the dimensions named is to come down from God out of heaven is too extravagant to be entertained by reason for a moment. The city is said to be four square, — that is, its length, breadth, and height are equal; and the measure is twelve thousand furlongs, — that is, fifteen hundred miles. But who can conceive that a city of gold fifteen hundred miles high, is to come down through the air ? Can any one imagine such a city, and this to be surrounded by a wall one hundred and forty cubits,—that is , seventy-two yards high? Besides, where would it descend to, and upon what? Our island, the largest in Europe, would be many times too small for its reception. By these considerations, as well as by the general law in relation to spiritual sights, that they are to be compared with spiritual things, we may know that a New Jerusalem is a New Church, especially as to its doctrine. Doctrine is like a city, because it defends the soul, as a city, by its walls, defends the city. We may, however, be met at the outset of our endeavour to show that revelation teaches that there is to be a New Church, and that it has already begun, as all divine works do, in an infantile state, with the objection that the New Jerusalem did not descend until John had ” seen the former heaven and the former earth pass away, and a new heaven and earth.” — Ver. 1. And that, therefore, a New Jerusalem is not to expected until we have altogether a new world. But this objection goes entirely on the error that the terms heaven and earth, when describing movable and changing heavens and earth, mean in the Scriptures what they mean in science. This is, however, not the case. Heaven and earth mean society in the world as to its inward principles, and its outward life and institutions. When men suffer the Lord to form their minds within by new heavenly principles, He is said to create new heavens. When they reject the holy truths of religion and cherish the dark and false persuasions of self-derived intelligence, it is said “the heavens have no light.” — Jer. iv, 23. We have examples of the first kind in the words of the prophet, ” I have put my words into thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” — Isa. li. 16. The heavens that the Lord plants by putting His Word into the mouth of His people, can only be the heavenly principles which bring peace here and prepare for heaven hereafter. When the Lord came into the world and planted the kingdom of God within men, as He said (Luke xvii. 20, 21), it is foretold by the prophet in similar terms to those used by John, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth : and former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” — Isa. lxv. 17, 18. To alter the state of society altogether, both as to its principles and practice, is to change heaven and earth. “If any be man be in Christ,” said Paul, ”he is a new creature : old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” — 2 Cor. 17. And, indeed, when this happy change takes place with any one individually, he feels all things To have a new face and a new reality for him. His view of the Lord is altogether bright and new, where it had before been dark and threatening. His thoughts, his hopes, his prospects, are altogether confident and cheerful, and his outward life is new and virtuous. Creation smiles upon him with a new face. The fool’s paradise which made his former heaven, and the evil, wretched mixture of sinning and remorse which formed his conduct, has all passed away, and there is for him a new heaven and a new earth. And there is no more sea. Or, there is no more of that external, natural, turmoiling thought, which consisted of masses of knowledge and masses of care and anxiety, but all external. The wicked are like a troubled sea (Isa. xlviii. 22). All this, however, is done away with when the mind and life are made new. So is it with an individual, and so is it with all society. To indicate this, then, and not to tell of destruction and annihilation in God’s fair universe, John saw in vision the former heaven and former earth passing away, and a new heaven and a new earth appearing. While, then, change was coming over society in all other respects, in the feelings, thoughts, and outward life of men, there would also be given to the world a new doctrine from heaven which would constitute a New Church. This is the New Jerusalem. And may we not look around now, and ask, Is it not so? Has not society, even now, immensely changed? Where are the old bigotted principles which taught men to go out and persecute, and even destroy others, in the name of God ? Where are all the old maxims which taught each nation to regard others as their natural enemies, and to injure and destroy their power and their trade as a patriotic act and a duty ? Where are the selfish maxims which confined power and privilege to a few to whom all others should slavishly bend ? These are all gone, or rapidly going; and, instead of their unholy reign, we see constantly advanced and constantly extending sentiments of brotherhood, of reverential remembrance that we are all children of One who is our Father and our Saviour. Every year the mutual intercourse of nations, and the goodwill which is its attendant, are extending, and, aided by the victorious march of steam and telegraph, will, no doubt, ere long unite all nations in the ties of mutual love. Though still the horrid wickedness of national war is witnessed even in Christendom, yet it is not entered into as formerly with zest. Vast numbers lament it, protest against it, go about it with regret and apologies, evidently feeling within that men were not made to produce hell upon earth, but to make a paradise for each other. Oh, may this spirit rapidly increase.
” On, spirit of blessedness, on,
And gladden each valley and hill,
And, oh, let each hamlet, and city, and town,
Be bright with Thy radiance still.
Let wisdom, and virtue, and freedom, and worth,
Enrich each sweet spot of the beautiful earth.”
All the appliances of art, of science, and of business are new, or being renovated. The whole face of society is being changed. Our modes of travel are entirely remodelled, and all in the direction of bringing the blessings of all to each. Education is advancing with rapid strides. Books, newspapers, letters, are being multiplied with marvellous rapidity. Ignorance will ere long, we rejoice to say, be as rare an exception as, fifty years ago, knowledge was. A new heaven and a new earth are, indeed, appearing. And now, therefore, is the time that the New Jerusalem may be expected. A New Church under that name has certainly begun, but is it the Church intended in our text ? This is a serious question. Let us examine and compare.
The New Jerusalem of our text has many marks. We will select four prominent ones. First, It is the Bride, the Lamb’s wife (ver. 2, 10). Secondly, It is a golden city (ver. 18). Thirdly, It is clear, like unto clear glass (ver. 18). Fourthly, It is four square: the length, the breadth, and the height of it are equal (ver. 16). And, lastly, it has twelve gates: on the east three gates, on the west three gates, on the south three gates, and on the north three gates (ver. 13). If these marks of the New Church represented to the eyes of John’s spirit shall be found to be descriptive of precisely the same principles, doctrines, and states as distinguish the New Jerusalem Church now began among mankind, we shall not be presumptuous in saying, the prophecy is in these days fulfilled.
1 The New Jerusalem is the bride, the Lamb’s wife
First, then, the New Jerusalem is the bride, the Lamb’s wife. In the Old Testament Jehovah is said to be the husband of His church (Isa. liv. 5). For thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord (Jehovah) of Hosts is His name, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. The God of the whole earth shall He be called. The New Jerusalem would regard the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the same light as Jehovah was required to be regarded among the Jews, as the God of the whole earth. To be the husband is to be the support, the strength, the ruler, the only one loved supremely with all the heart. There can only be one such for the church to be a true bride and wife. Hence, this mark of the New Jerusalem implies that in this Church the Lord Jesus Christ would be the only object of adoration, love, and worship. This entire devotion of the soul to Him is implied in being His wife. And if the last best Church will so regard Him, it will follow that such is the truth. In fact, now we can see that this has always been taught in the Word, and we wonder that men have passed it by unperceived. Isaiah proclaimed that there was no Saviour but Jehovah. “The Lord (Jehovah) is our judge, the Lord (Jehovah) is our lawgiver, the Lord ( Jehovah) is our king; He will save us.” — Isa. xxxiii. 22. He who came into the world as the Son was proclaimed to be the “Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace,” Isa. ix. 6. The attention of the world was called to the One God of Israel as the Source of all good. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth : for I am God, and there is none else.” — Chap. xlv. 22. ” Before Me was there no God formed, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord (Jehovah), and beside Me there is no Saviour.” — Chap. xlv. 10, 11. In the New Testament we are told that ” Jesus was God with us,” Matt i. 23.”God manifest in the flesh,” 1 Tim. iii. 16. “God over all, blessed for ever,” Rom. ix. 5. ” He who seeth Him seeth the Father,” John xiv. 9. ” He and the Father are one,” John x. 30. “So that all that the Father hath is His,” John xvl. 15. ”And in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” Col. ii. 9. “He is the First and the Last,” Rev. i. 17. ” The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending; who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty,” Rev. i. 8. ” The King of kings and Lord of lords,” Rev. xix. 16.
But this truth so directly taught, has not, for ages, been abidingly acknowledged in the church. The divinity of the Lord’s Humanity has never been clearly brought out and placed as the central truth in the church, as it is in heaven. It is the Divine Humanity that is the Lamb. It is the Divine Lamb. It is the innocence and wisdom of God embodied in human form. We can communicate with God in that form, but not with an incomprehensible essence. He can be in us, and the Father in Him. The Lamb has been slain, in a higher sense than that of crucifying His body. The divinity of His Humanity has been rejected since the foundation of the church, the world, in a spiritual sense. But the angels have adored Him in His Divine Humanity. They have said, ” Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing ” — Rev. v. 12 ; and the New Jerusalem would take up this adoring strain, and diffuse it over the earth. God, before he assumed the Humanity, had communicated with His creatures by angels (Heb. ii. 2.) and by prophets, (Heb. i. 1); these were mere creatures themselves, and were not to be adored; but when He assumed, and glorified the only-begotten Son, He said, ” Let all the angels of God worship Him.”— Heb. i. 6. Unto the Son He said, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever ; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” — Ver. 8. This Divine Humanity, therefore, begotten and glorified of the Father, is the Lamb, and the New Jerusalem would be the Lamb’s wife. She would regard the Human of Jehovah as the Divine Man, full of all the glories of the Godhead, and saying, ” Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” — Matt. xi. 26. ” No one knoweth the Father save the Son, and He to whom the Son will reveal Him.” — Ver. 27. Well, there is now Church which regards the Lord Jesus in this light, as the only God of heaven and earth ; as the Creator from eternity, the Redeemer in time, and the Regenerator for ever. The prophecy and the fulfillment seem complete. The New Jerusalem, John foresaw, would be the Lamb’s wife. The New Jerusalem which has begun is the Lamb’s wife. The first mark is fully recognized.
2 The city would be a golden one.
Secondly : The city would be a golden one. Gold is the emblem of the highest love: love to the Lord. ” I counsel thee,” said the Lord Jesus to the church of Laodicea, ” to buy of me fine gold, tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” —Rev. iii. 18. That the city was pure gold, was to teach us by this beautiful sign, that this church would have all its doctrines and practice grounded in pure love. And when we examine the Church of the New Jerusalem, now actually begun, we cannot acknowledge that this mark is fully borne out. The ground of all her teaching respecting the Lord is, “God is love.” From love He created us; from love He redeemed us ; from love He watches over and regenerates us. It is His love that diffuses a sphere of blessedness through heaven. It is His love which marks the sparrow’s fall, and leaves not a hair of the head unnumbered. What love will do in any case God will do, for He is almighty love. The Word is God’s love, teaching by wisdom. It is His love drawn out. Again, love is the soul of all religion. Love leads to man’s forgiveness; love believes; love keeps the commandments; love bears with patience; love hopes; love adores; love enters heaven and strikes its golden harp; love is fulfilling of the law. So teaches the New Church; and is she not, then, rightly represented as a golden city ? This second mark is then equally clear to be seen on the New Church as the first.
3 The city was clear as glass.
Thirdly: The city was clear as glass. Her light is said to be clear as crystal (Ver. 11). “The nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it.” — Ver. 24. Now, if there is one thing which more than another in the New Church as now begun, it is that it is clear. Subjects that have hitherto been most mysterious are made clear. Where darkness has held her sway there is complete light. It is recorded of some poor captives of the Bastile and other prisons, that they have become so used to their confinement, that they have shrank from the enjoyment of the light and the freedom of earth, and asked to remain in their cells. And so we find it often with mental prisoners. They fear to embrace the principles of the New Jerusalem, they are so clear. They have been accustomed to think all must be mysterious and perplexing in the doctrines of religion, and therefore they are afraid of a system which makes all clear. Yet that was to be the characteristic of the New Jerusalem. ” The city would be clear as glass.” This church would let the light of heaven in, fearlessly, yes, lovingly. Children love the light; and the members of this church, children of the Lord Jesus, the light of the world, desire to walk in His truth : to have its clearness within them and around them.
The divine Trinity, so long the dark centre of old Christianity, is now made beautifully clear. Who cannot understand the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one Divine Person, like the soul, body, and works, in one human person, the image of the Lord. This Trinity is so clear, we see it represented everywhere. It is like the heat, light, and radiation of the sun; the essence, form, and fragrance of a flower; the length, breadth, and depth of a grain of dust. Everything in creation is three in one. The same clearness exists in that other mysterious doctrine, the doctrine of the atonement. We are not perplexed with the idea of two divine persons, one angry and the other merciful, and yet both alike; we are not puzzled with the effort to find out why one demanded a sacrifice and the two others did not; why the justice of the first demanded the death of the second, and the justice of the other two made no such demand. The doctrine in the New Jerusalem is altogether clear. It was our heavenly Father Himself who saved us. In His love and in His pity He redeemed us. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” — 2 Cor. v. 18. He redeemed us from the powers of hell because He loves us, and He saves us from our sins, Matt. i. 21. The Holy Spirit is His Spirit dwelling in us, to enlighten, to purify, to console, and to bless us. ” The Lord is that Spirit.”— 2 Cor. iii, 17.
Come we to the life of religion; it is to shun evil, and do good. The commandments of the Lord are the standard of evil and good: keep them from love, in spirit and in act, and your mind will become formed for heaven.
Do you wish to know what heaven is ? It is the company of loving and wise souls, made perfect by regeneration, as far as their states will admit, and filled and surrounded with peace, joy, and beauty from the Lord. The kingdom of God essentially is within you. Is not this clear? Try it; you will realize heaven at home. Do you ask what hell is ? It is the congregation of the bad, filled with lusts and passions, hating and tormenting each other, and abounding in all that is impure, wretched, and unholy. Do not the same impurities make hell here ? Are not the wicked miserable here, and can they be otherwise so long as they cherish the causes of misery? The same laws which prevail on earth prevail after death, but produce their effects more perfectly and more immediately. That world is a spirit-world, and all its movements are ruled with the rapidity and certainty of thought. All this is surely clear; and do we ask who shall enable us to live the life which leads to heaven ? the answer is simple — the Lord Jesus; He who sanctified Himself, that we might be sanctified; He who invites us to receive Him in heart, and soul, and love. “He who eateth me, shall live by me.”
Oh, what calls to love, to virtue, and to trust, are made upon us in this clear view of our God, of His merciful dealings of ourselves, and the life of religion; and, lastly, of that pure state of bliss for which this world is to prepare us.
4 The city is four-square.
But, fourthly: The city is four-square. The length, the breadth, and the height of it are equal. There are three grand things in religion, love, faith, and works, all of them, in the Word, declared essential to salvation. Without love there is nothing that can dispose the soul to have faith; it is love that believes. Without love and faith there can be no good works; for either no works will be done, if we do not love to do them, or if works be done, they will not be from the heart, and will therefore be constrained or hypocritical, and therefore not good. Religion has often overlooked this essential condition of things, and only insisted upon faith as essential to salvation.
“Believe, and all your sins forgiven :
Only believe, and yours is heaven.
Salvation by faith, without works, has been supposed to be the essence of the Gospel. Hence, men have been built up only on one side, and it has been imagined that their faith would be all that would be measured in the judgment. It is amazing that a system so plainly opposed to the account of judgment, as given in the Gospel, could ever have found acceptance among those who have constantly been told by the Lord, ”That He will judge every man according to his works.” They have built up their city only on one side, and enemies of every kind have entered and laid it waste on others. Hence, Christianity has been preached, but evil practised, on every hand. There have been Christian invaders of countries. Christian slave-makers, Christian persecutors, Christian extortioners, Christian doers of almost every evil, when it suited them, but blindly expecting to be saved, because they imagined their faith was right. It will not be so in the New Jerusalem. The measure of the city is equal.. Examine its faith, and it is a loving trust in all that the Lord has taught, or shall further disclose as true. Examine its love, and it is a holy glow of affection to the Lord supremely, and to man as his immortal child. Examine its works, and they will be found to consist in daily obedience to the divine commandments, from faith and love. Each great Christian grace is cultivated and insisted upon as equally essential. Where one is, the other two are. A man cannot have love alone. If he really love God, he will really believe Him, and will really obey Him. A man cannot have faith alone. If he really have faith, he will do what faith teaches. “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” A man cannot have good works alone if he work at all it must be from some love, and if he do real good works they must be from a good love. And a real good love will seek for truth to guide it, in what it does. One Christian grace, sincerely held, involves the others. It cannot exist alone. This is seen in the New Jerusalem, and hence it inculcates the trinity of Christian graces, love, faith, works, as all alike essential to the religious character. The length, breadth, and height of the city are equal. Length is the measurement in the direction of the sun’s course, and is expressive of the degree we advance in goodness. Breadth is the measurement from north to south, and indicates the expansion of truth and views of wisdom over the mind, while height is indicative of the holiness derived from the Lord, and descending into the life, giving elevation and purity. These, in the New Jerusalem, are equal. And, oh, may it be the effort of us all to have these principles equal in us. Faith without love is bitter and false; love without faith is weak and blind; and works without both are hypocritical, wicked, or dead. But faith and love, producing virtue, are the genuine principles of religion. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but “faith working by love.”
Lastly : The New Jerusalem has gates on every side. On the east three gates, on the west three gates, on the south three gates, and on the north three gates. The different quarters represent the different states of the mind. The east is where the sun rises, and those whose hearts are affected by love to the Lord are represented as in the east. Having three gates on the east signifies that there are introductory truths meant by gates, which are especially adapted for the reception of those who supremely love the Lord. While the principles of the New Jerusalem unfold the loveliness of the divine character, the matchless wisdom of the Lord and His adorable virtue, the hearts of His loving servants burn within them. There are three gates for them. On the west there are three gates, to signify that for those who are in little good, with whom the Sun of righteousness is going down and almost setting, there are truths accommodated to their state. They can be assured of the divine mercy, and learn to repent. The way for them is made very simple. To shun evil, especially the sin which most easily besets them, and do the opposite good, is their only course. Look to the Saviour for strength. Trust not in self, but trust in Him who has said, “Whosoever will come unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” The knowledges of charity, faith, and good works, as applicable to them, are the three gates on the west side.
The south is where the sun is when his light is greatest, when his mid-day splendour extends the widest over the horizon, and they whose minds are in the greatest illumination are in the south. That there are on the south three gates, is the assurance that the doctrines of the New Jerusalem are adapted to the most highly intellectual. The simplest can comprehend their simple elements, but the grander truths will elicit the interest and excite the admiration of the most commanding minds. To trace the Divine Providence in all His dealings, to unfold the Word in its sublime depths, and to enter into the wonders of regeneration, are exercises which will engage the profoundest intellects. For them there are on the south three gates: and even on the norths there are three gates. Those who are in the least light, and so beset with the fogs of ignorance as to be still in the simplicity of mere children, will find gates adapted to them. To be thankful to the Lord for every blessing, to do their daily work from the spirit of religion, and to avoid sin as an offense against God; these things the least intellectual can grasp, and the New Jerusalem has three gates to receive those who approach from the north. Men of all nations and conditions, men of all talents and attainments, men of all churches and superstitions, will find the love and the light which they need, in this New Church. The Roman Catholic will find that universality of love, and that infallibility of truth which he has vainly sought in his own church, given in the gold and crystal clearness of the New Jerusalem. The Protestant will find that reverence for the Bible, which is his glory, still more heightened, while the wonders of its spiritual sense are explored, and he finds it a fountain of wisdom, not for men only, but also for angels. The Hindoo will find in the New Jerusalem the origin of all the emblems, which, though now polluted by idolatry, were at first full of sacred meaning. The Unitarian and the Jew will find in this Church their One God in essence and in Person adored, free from any rival, but made be known in the blessed person of Jesus, the First and the Last, that we can abide in Him and He in us. It is the Lord God Almighty whose glory is the light of the holy city, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof (ver. 23). There is no curse there; where its principles prevail, all is blessing. The throne of God and the Lamb is in the city, and His servants serve Him. They see His face, and His name is in their foreheads (chap. xxii. 4, 5.) She is the Lamb’s wife; He is her husband, and in HIM is the Father.
She is not only, however, the bride, but a bride adorned for her husband. All her doctrines, and all she knows of the eternal world, are not only useful and true, but beautiful. Each doctrine is a precious stone of itself. Each gate is a pearl. The abundance of revelations which this Church possesses concerning the eternal world, adorns her with loveliness of the most delightful character, taking away the chill of the grave and the ghastliness of death. O that man knew how truly this system is indeed a magnificent city, descended from God out of heaven. But, oh, may they be induced to learn its worth, and to enter it, by witnessing the purity and peace of its inhabitants. May a prayer go up from every heart within its pure precincts, to be made to walk worthy of its holy principles, that we may be gifted with the privilege of being heralds to others of the light, the glory, and the good of this holy city of our God. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.”
O, what a hope and a blessing for mankind are unfolded by the descent of this city of God. To those who enter it the perplexities of ages are ended. Enmity gives way to love, anxiety to trust, and crime to virtue. God in His divine humanity dwells with men. The tabernacle of God is that Holy Temple which He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But He spake of the temple of His body.” — John ii. 19, 21. The tabernacle of God is with men. He dwells with them in His Glorified Humanity. He is in them, and the Father in Him. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying: neither shall there be any more pain, the former things are passed away.” — Ver. 3, 4.
There shall be no more death. That is, no more those deadly evils which destroy the soul. No more those hateful passions which destroy peace, those malignant lusts which pollute spirit and engender hell. “To be carnally minded is death.” Rom. viii. 6. Life, beginning with the Divine Love, which is life itself; life, the life of Christian love, flowing through the whole mind; life, the life of doing good, shall pervade the inhabitants of this blessed city. Their perceptions of truth shall be trees of life; the Word shall be to them a river of the water of life. Everything — the arts, the sciences, the philosophies, the literature of this society, shall all breathe that pure love which is life of heaven. “He that liveth and believeth in Me,” said Lord Jesus, “shall never die.” — John xi. 26. He will still have the privilege of passing into the eternal world; but this is not dying, it is rising to a more perfect life. There shall be no more separation from God and His Infinite Love. There shall no more sorrow from fear of hell; no more wailing from loss of truth; no more the pain of burdened, irksome labour, for labour will be lost in love. The likeness of heaven will be seen upon earth, and man truly be an incipient angel. O, may we resolve to enter this glorious city and live by its laws now. Its influence is small yet, but it will extend in every way until its blessed principles do, indeed, throw a golden atmosphere of happiness and peace around all the families of earth, and the hopes and the prayers of the wise and good of every age are fulfilled. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven even so upon the earth.”
The tendency of all things manifestly is to the realization of these glorious views for the future. Education is advancing, with astonishing strides, to the destruction of ignorance. The tone and character of education, also, are being heightened. The bringing out of the good affections is now the acknowledged supreme object of education, and books are being rapidly produced to aid in this great work, the noblest work of man. For surely, of all aims, the highest is that of making one great family of brothers and sisters of the whole human race, with the everlasting Father as the one Divine Head, with all the appliances and comforts of earth at their service ; and such an advance in all the elevating influences of religion, and reason, and science, that the angels can sing over a fully redeemed world, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.
“All crimes shall cease, and ancient frauds shall fail;
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed innocence from heaven descend.
No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear,
From every face God wipes off every tear.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)